Senator Chuck Grassley announced an expanded probe Wednesday into the Department of Defense’s Office of Net Assessment (ONA) and its awarding of defense contracts to Stefan Halper, in order to see whether ONA illicitly authorized funds for the former professor to spy on the 2016 Trump campaign.
Halper, an FBI source who met with and recorded Trump associates Carter Page, Sam Clovis, and George Papadopoulos, according to Justice Department Inspector General Michael Horowitz’s December report, has been awarded more than $1 million in contracts by ONA since 2012.
Grassley points to several contracts awarded to Halper in a letter to James Baker, the director of ONA, as examples “that clearly indicate weak or non-existent internal controls.”
Evaluators raised “several weaknesses,” including a lack of substance, in a 2012 contract proposal by Halper that were ultimately ignored. For a 2015 proposal, Halper listed a Russian intelligence official as an adviser, who was then cited by Christopher Steele as source for his now-infamous dossier.
Halper’s last contract, awarded in September 2016, mentions “unknown third parties” paying for Halper’s trip to Japan to interview “former high-level U.S. and foreign government officials,” but Grassley points out that the IG later found none of Halper’s 348 footnotes in the subsequent study cited any interviews.
Halper also contacted Papadopoulos in September 2016 and offered $3,000 for him to write a policy paper on the natural-gas market in the Mediterranean.
“Given Professor Halper’s intelligence connections and government funding, it is reasonable to ask whether he used any taxpayer money in his attempt to recruit Trump campaign officials as sources,” Grassley hypothesizes.
The Iowa Senator concludes his letter by asking for a list of every contract ONA has issued over the last five years to review the consistency of its decision-making.
“The fact that taxpayer money was used to support these projects calls into question ONA’s ability to be a proper steward of the people’s money and whether ONA has acted consistent with its mission and purpose,” Grassley writes.